View Full Version : Encounter advice: fighting on a battlefield?

2013-06-21, 01:55 PM
Hi Playgound

I'm running the last part of a 2-year campaign this weekend, where one of two encounters will be on a battlefield (last session was the armies fighting, The PC's didn't loose the fight, and so we move on to the showdown between them and the first of two BBEG's.

The question is, does anyone have any ideas on how to make this fight more interresting? i like to keep my encounters varried by having environmental effects in them or moving parts - stuff the PC have to keep an eye on or can do besides hitting the enemy. I'm having a hard time coming up with good ideas for an encounter on the battlefield though.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Kol Korran
2013-06-21, 03:31 PM
Some things may differ depending on system and power level, magic and so on, but a few general Ideas:
1) If you play D&D, have the Heroes of Battle book, and have the time to rif through it's main parts of designing a battle, encounters and so on, I highly advise it. The general advice says to plan the battle before hand, by assigning terrain, units and goals of each side, then run the battle by estimates before hand, writing the battle down to yourself in segments of 15 minutes, hours, or whatever is appropriate.

Then give the PCs a set of goals by their commander, or by pressing issues. "Capture that hill!", "Stop the ogre shock troopers!", "Take down that siege engine! It's killing us!" and so on. Then design the "adventure" as a sort of running flow chart. PCs engage encounter A, depending on whether they fail or succeed (failure doesn't have to mean PCs' death), and possibly on other factors, they can go towards encounter A or B, and so forth and so forth.

Since PCs are notorious for not following plans, this is where your pre written flow of the battle comes along, so you know what roughly goes on around the PCs if they change course, and adapt.

The party gain victory points according to their accomplishments on the field. If they cross a certain amount then the army win. If not then despite their efforts the enemy wins (And of course you can have more varied degrees of outcomes). It all takes a bit of planning, but works quite well. The rest of the book is filled with more specific info about instruments of war, units, adventuring in a war campaign and such, probably not what you need.

2) If however you just seek specific encounters, well let's see...
Ranged barrage: A sizable unit of low power ranged units, which are however in fairly big numbers lie fortified by some sort of defense (A manufactured fortification, barricading in abandoned houses, in trenches and so on) which seriously makes crossing some terrain difficult. The terrain might have some cover, but not enough for large units of troops, perhaps for some capable individuals? But the archers/ gunners/ stormtroopers (what system are you running anyway?) Are not defenseless- they have either some "up close and personal" support, or some traps, mines, and so on when you get close to them.

Hold the bridge! The party's allied army needs to transfer some cumbersome, slowmoving, clumsy... thing... (Siege engine, Highly delicate magical device or such) over a vital point of the battlefield. However the troops listed to guard that point are finding it hard to face the massed attackers. I suggest to to run this as a sort of "defend against ever growing swarming waves" kind of scene. You could give the party some short tiem to recuperate between waves, and also make hasty defenses/ allocation of troops to plan for the next wave.

Bring The specialist to the designated spot Basically there is some sort of obstacle/ problem that only 1-2 people in the army can deal with (A mage dealing with a special monster summoning portal, an explosive expert needing to break through fortifications, A powerful healer needed to restore the high general's health and so on). The party needs to escort the much more squishier ally through a bunch of enemies who seem to realize the specialist's... special stature. Another version of this idea might be to bring a special volatile animal, substance, or even a prisoner with some vital data to somewhere else. The idea is that the thing causes unexpected complications for the party, and needs protection.

Sabotage! The party needs to get to something important to the enemy and disable it, either by crafty means or brute forces. the problem may arise from the object in questions proving more difficult to destroy than imagined (made of tougher material, have more guards, not where you though it would be or some such). A similar idea could be assassination, with the subject in mind being a person.

Scouting mission: If there is some break in the fighting, to allow for the troops to recuperate (few armies fight at night), the PCs might be called to get to the enemy's army and spy on them, get as much info as they can. And it's quite important that they won't be discovered, or the enemy might change their plans.

Rally the troops! The battle is not going well. The allies are getting their asses handed to them! many troops panic, even start to run. This could be the fall of the army! The Pcs are called to do something impressive, and rally the shaken troops. It could be a rousing speech ("band of brothers"?), an act of great courage (facing of some frightenign champion of the enemy, or diverting the allies attention, bluffing them with soem clever ruse and lie, at least till the battle is over.

How do we pass this? There is some rough ground, or even a mine field or such. Anything really that makes progress of normal troops especially difficult, or even entrapping them in a kill zone and such. The party must act fast, smart, and decisively to find a way to get as many troops back on track as they can.

Hopefully this helps? I may be able to work with you more on specifics if you tell your game system, relative power level/ capabilities of your players, and their play style.

Good Luck!

2013-06-21, 03:53 PM
wow, i totally forget to add that it's a pathfinder campaign!

Thanks for the suggestions! i'm pretty sure i can work in one or two of them, so to give the PC's objectives pre-BBEG showdown. I can definitely see them having to protect an NPC untill she can get somewhere or cast that spells that'll really help them out.